As time goes on, the signing by Brighton of The Iranian international Alireza Jahanbakhsh looks more and more like an unsuccessful venture for all involved.
The former Eredivisie top scorer and current star of the Iranian national team came to the club with great promise and fanfare, as Albion fought off interest from Leicester City to win his signature. But Leicester will likely be the only ones grateful based on the lack of impact he’s had over the past three seasons.
And yet, despite Jahanbakhsh’s fairly modest record in terms of goals involvement in now over 28 hours of Premier League football, he remains a key figure of Albion’s squad having featuring in 18 of Albion’s 35 matches this season.
After a quiet first season at the Albion, many expressed frustration at his performances, whilst others called for patience. But the sacking of the defensive-minded manager Chris Hughton and the appointment of the more attack-minded Graham Potter was meant to open up a new opportunity for Albion’s former record signing. Instead that 12 of his 18 Premier League starts came in that first season under Hughton shows a very different story.
Jahanbakhsh was brought into a team that needed goals. As the summer transfer of 2017 closed, there was panic amongst many Albion supports after the club failed to sign a striker leaving the club very reliant on a certain Glenn Murray for goals. Panic then turned to panic-buys, as Dutch striker Jurgen Locadia was signed January 2018, arguably Albion’s worst signing since promotion the topflight.
Then in the summer of 2018 Jahanbakhsh was signed along with a spate of new signings including the Romanian striker Florin Andone and Brazilian full back Bernardo, with Albion making a total outlay on new signings that summer of over £50m, and yet the club went backwards in terms of points and league position. Only surviving relegation because of a series of failures to capitalise on Albion’s deficiencies by Cardiff City.
Despite the outlay being focused mostly on attacking players, Albion also mustered just 35 goals in 38 games, only one more than in its maiden Premier league season. Whilst Glenn Murray was consistently reliable notching 13 goals, new signings Locadia and Andone scored 2 and 3 respectively, whilst Jahanbakhsh failed to earn even earn an assist to his name, let alone a goal scored.
There were exceptional circumstances. Jahanbakhsh’s progress was initially limited by a lack of game time and then when he made it into the team he was asked to play a very defensive wide midfield role, with Albion primarily attacking through the middle via the effective partnership of Pascal Gross and Glenn Murray.
Under Graham Potter’s period of management Jahanbakhsh has been played in a number of different roles, as varied as wing back to playing as a number nine, and whilst there have been moments of quality they have been few and far between as the Iranian has struggled to find his place in Graham Potter’s far more fluid and possession-based side.
To his credit, in that first season and since Jahanbakhsh has shown himself to be a hardworking & likeable person, he wouldn’t still be here otherwise as the departure and diminishing influence of other players signed around the time shows. But that he’s played in two Albion teams with very contrasting styles of play and not been good enough to hold down a regular place in either is telling. Whilst he’s shown to be capable of brilliance, it’s not been consistent or reliable enough to warrant the first team football he desires.
To succeed at this level you need to be able to adapt to different systems and positions, particularly under a manager like Graham Potter. Unfortunately Jahanbakhsh has shown a lack of ability to do that, despite a willingness to try.
But that he has still regularly been involved in matchday squads despite Brighton’s strengthening options and he has been used so many times as a substitute ahead of other attacking options, clearly shows that Graham Potter thinks he has something to offer. Unlike some of Albion’s other big money signings from the earlier Premier League transfer windows, Jahanbakhsh is reliable and someone Potter can turn to for some additional attacking intent if Albion need to change the game in search of a goal.
However, that the recent defeat away to Sheffield United was a rare occasion where Jahanbakhsh made an impact as a substitute (and even then it didn’t deliver a goal), shows equally how difficult that role is to play and how unsuited he is to Graham Potter’s Albion side.
Jahanbakhsh was signed to great acclaim as the Eredivisie’s top scorer in the 2017/18 season. However, whilst his appearance on Saturday was his 47th appearance for the club in the Premier League, taking his total minutes playing in the English topflight to 1,683, all that time on the pitch has yielded just 2 goals and 1 assist.
Some would point to his additional 11 cup appearances for the Albion, which yielded a further 2 goals. But both those goals and many of those matches were played against lower league opposition, which is hardly a barometer of Premier League success.
Others would say that an average of 35 minutes per Premier League appearance shows just how little opportunities he has really had, but I’d suggest that of his 18 starts he has completed just 3 is far more exemplary of Jahanbakhsh’s struggles in an Albion shirt.
On Saturday his 57th minute exit against Wolves exemplified much of his problems. Whilst he hadn’t had a bad game up to that point, as soon as Albion were reduced to ten men he was an obvious candidate for an exit to allow Albion to change shape and adapt to the situation it found itself in. Whilst others playing in a similar wide midfield role like Solly March or Dan Burn would have been just asked to switch positions, Graham Potter knew he had other players better suited to the job now required.
I’d say that he’s had far more opportunities under Potter than his output deserves compared to the likes of Zeqiri, Tau, Izquierdo and Propper, all of whom have shown glimpses of talent as a substitute but who’ve all spent most of the season on the sidelines after either returning from loans or long term injuries. And that’s not to mention his fellow summer 2018 inductee Florin Andone who hasn’t played a minute of football yet this season.
Some would point to chance creation. According to Premier League stats he has after all created 6 big chances this season. And whilst only 1 has yielded a goal, you can’t blame him for Albion’s well known poor chance conversion.
It’s worth saying in riposte, that this is largely just exemplary of his role this season, where he has often been brought on in games where Albion were pushing forward in search for a goal as an additional attacker.
Nonetheless, he has played this super sub role reasonably well, according to FB Ref he has made 17 shot creating actions across his 18 Premier league appearances this season, but which have led to just 1 goal creating action. Albion’s misfiring attack summed up in a nutshell.
Jahanbakhsh hasn’t been innocent of this himself either, with his fleeting appearances including a glaring miss as the team searched for a winner in the draw at home to a ten men (now relegated) Sheffield United side. But then again you can probably afford a bit more sympathy to a player whose featured as fleetingly as Jahanbakhsh has this season, especially compared to some of Albion’s other misfiring attackers.
Jahanbakhsh has voiced his frustration at not getting many minutes and has played well when given a chance at times, but usually only plays well against lower league teams in the cup, or against the likes of already relegated Sheffield United. His impact otherwise has been limited.
In reality Graham Potter has had the pleasure of watching him every day for the past 2 years. As did Chris Hughton the year previously. I think they are both far more qualified to assessed whether he deserves to play or not. During Jahanbakhsh’s time at the club yet he’s always been some way off being a regular, which is despite a change in management and a significant change in styles, which says a lot.
In comparison to one of his fellow wingers in the Hughton era Solly March, Jahanbakhsh has been far less successful in cementing a place in the team. With March’s versatility allowing him to play a number of different positions and over three times the number of minutes over the past three seasons compared to the Iranian.
Nonetheless, as previously stated, Jahanbakhsh clearly cares. As his recent celebration for Albion’s second against Leeds demonstrated as he awaited his introduction as a substitute. As do the tears shed after scoring his first goal for the Albion against Bournemouth last season.
Nonetheless, compared to the excitement upon his record breaking signature, he has proven to be far from the real deal and has not lived up to expectations. But then again in an industry of ever inflating transfer fees and salaries, transfer fees are less meaningful than they ever used to be.
What we can say is he continues to be a useful member of the squad and based on over 28 hours of evidence nothing more. Time will tell if that’s enough for both him and the club to justify another season with the Albion.